Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dear Abigail

Abigail Adams wrote to her sisters and other family members almost constantly during her lifetime. They were very close, and when they were apart from each other they maintained their close relationships by writing to each other often. Most of the letters in this book are between Abigail and her two sisters: Mary Cranch and Elizabeth Shaw. There are some from her husband John Adams and her children and nieces and nephews, but the author focuses on Abigail and her sisters. The letters provided them with comfort as they suffered illness, gave birth, lived through revolution, war, travel, and personal issues. The distinct personality of each sister comes through as you read their correspondence.

I thought this was a really interesting way to examine the life of such a notorious historical figure. Reading parts of their letters gives the reader such a personal view of Abigail and her family. I found it engaging to read what these women wrote to each other. I was particularly fond of a passage where Abigail writes her sister Mary that she discovered her husband(John Adams) reading one of Mary's letters without her permission. She castigates him, and extracts a promise that he will settle for what little Abigail deigns to share from these personal letters. I thought Jacobs did an excellent job giving new perspective to these historical figures, and showing what strong individuals they were.

At times I felt like I was reading something written by Jane Austen. Some of the phrasing or topics discussed put me in mind of many of Austen's books. I found it interesting to read about real people using similar phrases or topics that are discussed in some of Austen's books. As a fan of Austen, it only made me like the book more.

I really liked the way Jacobs used the letters to tell the story of Abigail Adams' life. It made the book much easier to engage with, and gave it such a personal feeling. I think it is a valuable resource for understanding life at that time, particularly for women.

If you are interested in American history, or want a different approach to reading history, I suggest reading this book.

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